Potential Impact of Common Feline Diseases on Endangered Ocelots in Southern Texas
1College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA; 2Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Kingsville, TX, USA
Currently, there are less than 100 wild ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) in the United States, all located in southern Texas. We investigated the impact that several feline common diseases could have on an isolated subpopulation of ocelots over a 100-year period using population viability analysis (PVA) via the Vortex computer program. Serology was performed on seven serum samples from free-ranging ocelots on the privately owned Yturria Ranch. Samples were gravity separated, immediately frozen, and later thawed. Serology was performed at Cornell’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center (College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY) to determine the presence of antibodies to feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), and feline parvovirus (FPV). Five ocelots were FPV positive; two were FIV positive; one was FIV and FPV positive. None were positive for FIP or FeLV, and one was negative for all four viruses. Results aided in developing parameters for PVAs that estimated disease impacts on this subpopulation over the next 100 years. Viewed as an isolated subpopulation, the control PVA resulted in this subpopulation becoming extinct within 50–60 years. With disease included in the PVAs, the prediction was extirpation 10–20 years sooner (FeLV, FIP, and FeLV combined with FIV scenarios) or 20–30 years sooner (FIV, FPV scenarios). The percent chance of infection varied from 0.5–70.0%, and even at 0.5%, the life expectancy of this subpopulation was reduced by up to 20 years. Follow-up studies should include health monitoring of these ocelots to determine if these infections have any effects on this subpopulation. Results of this study also indicate that infectious diseases need to be included in any future conservation strategies developed.